July 31, 2012

Pesto Bread

As I mentioned before, my son and husband kinda like pesto but they don't love it.  Not like me....I can't get enough of it.  I love this time of year because I can make it from the basil in my garden.  There's nothing better than fresh, homemade pesto!

However, this is the one way that my family loves to eat pesto - on bread, with melted cheese.  They, well let's face it all of us, can't keep our hands out of the bread basket when I make this pesto bread.  Give it a try...I'm sure it will disappear before your eyes!

Pesto Bread

1 loaf of French Baguette 
1/2 cup pesto (the amount will vary based on the size of the baguette)
Fresh or shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut the baguette in half lengthwise, and spread the pesto all over both halves.  Don't put too thick a layer of pesto though because it's got a pretty strong flavor - a little goes a long way.  Layer the fresh mozzarella on top of the pesto, or sprinkle with the shredded mozzarella to cover the pesto on each half of the bread.  Place on a baking sheet and cook in oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

July 30, 2012

Baked Sweet Potato with Black Beans

During the work week I usually have salad for lunch.  However, once in a while I'll switch it up and have oatmeal with fruit or this baked sweet potato.  This past May, after we planted our garden, I decided I would not buy lettuce again until after my garden harvest was done.  So, I had to get a little creative with my lunches, and tried to find light and healthy alternatives to my usual salad.  I am in no way a vegetarian (I LOVE meat), but I do try to eat healthy....most of the time. 

This baked sweet potato is filling, and has all the elements of a decent meal - protein, carbs, dairy and vegetables.  Sweet potatoes are a staple in my kitchen, so I always have a quick fix lunch available at any given time. And since I love sweet potatoes, this is a perfect lunch for me!  I find this dish to be very tasty and satisfying, so I figured I'd share my little creation with all of you to saveur.  

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Black Beans

1 large sweet potato, rinsed and patted dry
1/3 cup black beans, rinsed
small amount of sliced cheddar cheese, low-fat if possible
just a dab of butter
olive oil
1 tbsp sour cream
salt & pepper to taste 

Take your sweet potato and cut a slit in it, then rub a little olive oil over the skin.  You can either bake it in the oven until soft, or microwave it for about 10 minutes.  Once it's soft, take it and cut it in half (you will only be using 1/2 of the sweet potato, so the other 1/2 can be used for tomorrow's lunch or save it for something else).

I take a small knife and kind of "score" the sweet potato, just to break it up a little.  Then I spread just a tiny amount of butter on the inside of the sweet potato.  Top with the black beans, and then layer just a little bit of cheddar cheese of top of the beans (I almost always have a block of cheddar cheese in the fridge, so I'll cut just a small amount from the block and layer it on the beans).  Lastly, spread the sour cream all over the top, trying to cover as much as possible.  Season with salt and pepper.  

Since I usually make this for lunch to bring to work, I will reheat it in the microwave before eating so the cheese melts.  If I'm preparing this and eating it right away, I would cover the whole thing with a lid so the cheese has time to melt or pop it back into the microwave for 30-40 seconds until the cheese melts.  

July 25, 2012

Pink Lemonade Cocktail

Today after work I am headed to Maine to visit for a few days with my aunt & uncle.  I can't wait!  They live on a lake, where there is no internet, and I am so looking forward to "unplugging" and unwinding.  It's exactly what I need right now!  So, you won't see any posts from me for a few days.  Will you miss me??

Anyway, I have never blogged about a drink before, but this one is worth it.  This is one of my favorite summer cocktails.  My dad turned me on to it many, many years ago!  The flavors go so well together, and it's refreshing, so it's perfect for summer.  Oh yeah, my husband and I love to sip on these while we sit on our porch on a hot summer evening.....

BUT, be careful!!!  You can't even taste the vodka, so this cocktail has a tendency to sneak up on you.....not that it's ever happened to me or anything ;)  Cheers!

Pink Lemonade Cocktail

1 bottle of Absolut Kurant flavored vodka
Pink lemonade - I like to use Newman's Own brand, or any kind that has the pulp in it
crushed ice

Ok, this is so easy I don't think you can technically call it a recipe!  Just fill your glass with ice, add enough vodka to fill 1/3 of the glass, then add the pink lemonade to the top of the glass.  Mix with a spoon or fork and ENJOY!

July 24, 2012

Cheesy Squash Casserole

If you are growing squash in your garden, odds are you're like me and find yourself with an over-abundance of squash.  You are probably scratching your head, and scouring the internet, trying to figure out what to do with all of it!

Well, look no further, because this recipe is down right delicious.  It takes a large amount of squash just to make an 8 x 11 dish of it, so this recipe fits the bill for using up the squash.  This is the first time I've made this casserole, and unfortunately my son is in Maine so I am not sure if he'll like this yet.  But given that our plants have LOTS of flowers on them still, I have no doubt he will be trying this very soon.  I think he'll like it though....when trying to get kids to eat vegetables, cook them in cheese and they almost always like it!  

I got this recipe off the Food Network website - it's a Paula Deen recipe.  While I am sure the original recipe is to die for, I thought it was a little heavy on the cheese and sour cream.  So, I decided to slim it down a little so we could truly enjoy / taste the squash!  My husband and I LOVED this casserole, and we both had big helpings of seconds......in fact we ate 1/2 of the casserole, just the two of us, in one sitting.  When we reheated it a couple of days later, it seemed even better!  I'm sure I will be making this at least two more times in the next month...if not more.  I actually have too much yellow squash AND zucchini, so I used both in my casserole.  Definitely a recipe I will cherish forever ♥

      Cheesy Squash Casserole

olive oil
6-7 medium squash
1 large onion, sliced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp seasoned breadcrumbs
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8 x 11 casserole dish.  In a skillet over medium heat, drizzle olive oil to cover bottom of pan. Add the onions & squash and saute until tender, stirring frequently (for about 15 minutes). While cooking, season with some salt and pepper.

Drain squash & onions in a colander. Press down with a large spoon or back of spatula to get as much juice/water out as possible. Transfer the squash & onions to a large bowl, and  add both cheeses, sour cream, and salt & pepper. Stir well to combine, then pour into casserole dish.  

Melt butter in a small bowl and add the breadcrumbs, stirring until all the breadcrumbs are moistened with the butter, then sprinkle all over top of casserole.  Bake (uncovered) for 20-30 minutes, or until edges of casserole are bubbly.

July 23, 2012

Red Pepper Bisque

Two years ago at work we had a potluck lunch, and my boss brought in this Red Pepper Bisque.  Her husband, who is the cook in their house, made it.  I absolutely loved it, so she was kind enough to bring me the recipe.  It's absolutely delicious!  So perfect for company - your guests will be amazed and think you are a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen!

I have found that you can make it with or without the roux/flour addition.  If you like the thicker, bisque-like texture then make it as the recipe reads.  If you want something a little lighter, more like a soup, than skip the roux or make it on the side and add a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency.  Either way, it is amazing!

Red Pepper Bisque

15 large red peppers
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup flour
1 stick unsalted butter
6 cups chicken stock
2 quarts of half & half
1/2 cup dry sherry
3/4 cup honey
salt & pepper to taste

The first step is to roast the red peppers.  You can do this on a grill, or by placing the peppers directly on gas burners on the stove top.  Since I don't have a gas stove top, I tend to roast the peppers on the grill or in the oven.  If you do it in the oven, place the peppers on a baking sheet and bake in oven set at 350 for about 45 minutes, turning once in a while until all sides are charred.  Remove from oven and place peppers in brown paper bag for 15 minutes, then remove from bag and peel and cut the peppers.  In a food processor, pulse peppers until pureed.  You may need to do this in batches.  

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook until translucent.  Add the flour, stirring to make a roux, and cook for about a minute.  Turn up the heat to medium-high, and whisk in the chicken stock.  Next stir in the 1/2 & 1/2, sherry, honey and pepper puree.  Bring to simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly until thickened and smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

*NOTE - for a little kick I like to add a dash or two of red pepper flakes.  Also, you can use jarred roasted red peppers that you buy at the store, and it will taste the same.

July 20, 2012

German Chocolate Cake

As I mentioned yesterday, my son and my husband's birthdays were last weekend.  Every year I make one cake - one they both like.  This is sometimes not an easy task, as my son's tastes seem to change every year and my husband is a creature of habit (meaning he likes certain things cooked a certain way ALWAYS).  

This year I got lucky.  I threw out the possibility of making a German chocolate cake, and they both got excited - SCORE!  That was much easier than in previous years!  So, I went to my recipe box to find my grandfather's recipe for German chocolate cake.  My grandfather is 100% German and he loves to cook.  He's been making his own wine and jams since as far back as I can remember.  I am sure he didn't invent this recipe, but I don't care....it's special because it's the one he uses and because he gave it to me.  He lives in Pennsylvania so I don't see him often, but I was lucky enough to have lunch with him the other day.....GEEZ, I should have brought him some cake but I didn't even think of it!  Anyway, he's visiting my aunt in Maine and we all met up because my son is spending a couple of weeks with her also.  It was a lovely lunch and I realized as I sat across from him, listening to some of his stories from when he was a kid, how it means so much more at this point/age to spend time with him than it ever did before. 

This cake is moist and dense, and the frosting is thick and full of caramel, coco-nutty goodness.....it's just so delicious.  Definitely a favorite in our house.  Thanks for the recipe Gramps!  Love & miss you tons ♥

German Chocolate Cake

2 cups flour
1/4 salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup water
1, 4 oz package of Baker's German Sweet Chocolate
2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 egg yolks 
4 egg whites
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350, and butter & flour your cake pan/pans (for some reason when I make this cake I always use a bunt cake pan) and set aside.  In a medium saucepan add the chocolate and water.  Heat on low, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat and set aside.  In another bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt together and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in the chocolate and vanilla until combined.  Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beating after each addition until smooth.  

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold egg whites into batter until combined.  Pour batter into your cake pans, and bake for 30 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.  Run a spatula between cakes and side of pan, and set aside to cool.  It doesn't have to cool completely before removing from the pan, but I'd wait at least a half hour.  After removing from pans, place on wire rack until cooled completely.  Frost with coconut-pecan frosting (see below for recipe).

Coconut-Pecan Frosting:  1 1/2 sticks butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk, 4 egg yolks slightly beaten, 2 tsp vanilla, 1 (7oz) package shredded coconut (about 2 2/3 cups) and 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans.  Add everything except the coconut & pecans to a medium saucepan.  Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 12 minutes or until thickened and golden brown.  Remove from heat and stir in the coconut & pecans.  Cool to room temp before using.  

July 19, 2012

Watermelon Salsa

This past weekend was both my husband and my son's birthdays.  Their birthdays are one day apart, which I hate - I always feel like neither of them are getting enough attention!  Plus I have to figure out what kind of cake to make that they both like (because making two cakes is just a little ridiculous).

Anyway, we had all the kids and grand kids over for a cookout to celebrate.  Since it was very hot outside, I decided I wanted to make a light and refreshing appetizerI came across this recipe and thought it sounded exactly like what I was looking for, but I will admit I was a little worried it wouldn't be a big hit because there are some picky eaters in this group.  But since I was in the mood to try something new I decided to go for it.  

I was shocked to discover that everyone really liked it.  Such an interesting mix of flavors, and yet somehow they all come together and taste fabulous.  My step-daughter's boyfriend couldn't even tell it was watermelon!  No one could keep their hands out this appetizer, so I would say it was a total hit.  I will be making this many more times for sure!

Watermelon Salsa

3 cups watermelon, diced
6 oz feta cheese
2 scallions, sliced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, rolled up & sliced thin
1/2 cup cilantro, rolled up & sliced thin
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
juice from 1/2 a lime
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
salt & pepper to taste

Place the first 6 ingredients into a medium sized bowl.  For the dressing, place the remaining ingredients into a smaller bowl and stir well to combine, making sure the brown sugar is dissolved.  Season dressing with salt & pepper to taste.   Pour dressing over salsa, and stir until well mixed.  

This can be served immediately, or you can cover and let it set in the refrigerator for several hours.  I find that the longer it sits the more juice it makes, so once in a while I would drain off some of the juice just so it's not too watery.

July 17, 2012

Grilled Sweet Potatoes

I was looking for a different vegetable to throw on the grill the other day, and since I had a few sweet potatoes I decided to use those up.  I love sweet potatoes, but unfortunately my son hates them.  Isn't that weird?  You would think kids would like them...I mean they're sweet, so what's not to like???

Anyway, I also had fresh garlic, thyme and scallions needing to be used up so I decided to throw it all in there with some olive oil.  Never used those ingredients all together with sweet potatoes before, so I wasn't sure what it would taste like.  Thankfully, I loved the end result.  I couldn't stop eating/picking at it, even long after dinner was over.  Just so good!

Grilled Sweet Potatoes

3-4 tbsp olive oil
2-3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
2 scallions, cut into large pieces
1 tbsp fresh thyme
3 garlic cloves sliced thin
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the grill on medium-low heat.  Line a flat grill pan, or cookie sheet, with aluminum foil.  Place the sweet potatoes, scallions, thyme & garlic into a large bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper.  Toss until well combined, then place on your grill pan.  Cover with aluminum foil and seal around the edges.  Cook until potatoes are tender (about 20-30 minutes), stirring every so often to make sure it's not burning.

July 16, 2012

Cheesy Bread Sticks

Ahhh, cheesy bread sticks.....let me just say, KIDS LOVE THESE THINGS!  When I worked as the head cook at my son's elementary school, this lunch was hands down the top seller.  OK, who am I kidding, it's not just kids who love these....grown ups do too!  I will admit that because they were such a big hit at the school, I dreaded those days that they were on the menu.  It was a lot of work making these from scratch for 240 in three hours.....along with preparing all the sides that went with it!  Can you tell I don't miss that job too much???

Now that I haven't worked there for a few years, I make them at home once in a while for my family.  We all love them!  If my son is having a few friends over and I know I'm giving them dinner, I'll make these and they gobble them up.  They are also a good finger food, either for an appetizer or as part of a light dinner with salad, and really they even good just to snack on.  You gotta try these...you won't be disappointed!

Cheesy Bread Sticks
1 tbsp + 1 tsp Active Dry Yeast (or 1 1/2  packages)
3 1/4 cups flour
3 oz warm water (3/8 cup)
1/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk
1 1/2 tsp salt

3 1/2 tbsp sugar
3 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup +  2 tbsp water

1 stick of butter
2-4 tsp chopped garlic
Shredded mozzarella, 4 + cups  
  • Dissolve yeast in warm water, and let stand 4-5 minutes. 
  • Place all dry ingredients (flour, dry milk, sugar, and salt) in mixer bowl.  Using a dough hook, blend on low speed for approximately 2 minutes.
  • Add oil and blend on low speed for 2 minutes.
  • Add water.  Mix on low speed for 1 minute.
  • Add dissolved yeast and mix on low speed for 2 minutes.
  • Knead dough on medium speed for 8 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Spread dough out onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Place in a warm area to rise for about 45 minutes to an hour.  You want it to be about doubled in size.
  • Melt butter together with the chopped garlic.  With a pastry brush, brush the butter and garlic all over the dough GENEROUSLY.  You want it to have a good amount of butter and garlic.  When I worked in the kitchen, we sometimes didn't have fresh garlic so I'd use powdered garlic instead.  If you use powdered garlic add a generous amount to the butter, or to your preference.
  • Layer the cheese on top of the butter mixture, again GENEROUSLY!  You want a lot of cheese, because it is cheesy bread sticks afterall!  Rule of thumb for me - add enough cheese so that you don't see any dough peeking through.  The amount of cheese will vary based on your preferences.  
  • Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.  Check after 10 minutes and turn tray around.  Watch closely for the next 10 minutes because you don't want the cheese to get too browned.....well, at least I don't!
  • Remove from oven and wait a couple of minutes before cutting.  I cut tray into thirds, and then into strips.  Serve with warmed pizza or spaghetti sauce.  Serves 4-6.

July 13, 2012

Cranberry Baked Beans

Ok, I have to start by saying that I debated long and hard as to whether or not I should blog about this dish.  I got this recipe years ago at the Stowe Farmer's Market where someone was handing them out.  I thought it sounded intriguing so I held on to it.  

Needless to say I finally pulled it out and decided to give it a try for this week's "new recipe" (for those that don't already know, I try to make at least one new recipe a week).  Well, truth be told, we all hated this dish!  Isn't that awful???  I wanted so badly to like it, especially because I don't like to throw food out, but man......none of us could finish the servings we had on our plates.  The only good thing about this dish was the cooking method - I thought the consistency of the end result were pretty spot on.  Unfortunately, it was just way too tart.  I tried to fix it by adding more sugar, but nothing worked and there was no salvaging it for us.  I was pretty bummed out!

So, you're probably wondering why I am bothering with posting this recipe.  Well, in the end I decided that even though we didn't like, someone out there might!  Or, maybe someone out there would like to take a stab at it and maybe turn it into something wonderful.  Who knows, I just figured I'd put it out there....in the spirit of honesty and sharingIf by chance you decide to give it a try, please let me know how it turned out and what you thought of it!  Good luck!

Cranberry Baked Beans

3 cups dry navy beans
5 cups cranberry juice
1/2 lb bacon, diced
3/4 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
5 tsp dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground mustard
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground ginger

Place beans in a Dutch oven or soup kettle.  Add water to cover beans by 2 inches.  Bring to a boil, and let it boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, and cover and let it stand at room temp for 1 hour.  Drain beans and discard liquid.  Return beans to pan, and add cranberry juice.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 1 hour or until beans are almost tender.  Drain, reserving cranberry liquid.  Place beans in a 2 1/2 qt casserole or bean pot, and add the remaining ingredients and 1 1/2 cups of the reserved cranberry liquid.  Cover and let bake at 350 for 3 hours, or until beans are tender, stirring every 30 minutes.  Add reserved cranberry liquid as needed.  Serves 10-12.

July 11, 2012

Baked Eggplant

I love eggplant.  In fact, it might just be my favorite vegetable.  Although, I don't order it when I go out to eat because every time I have gotten it at a restaurant it is just so saturated with oil, and it's usually disgusting.  Who wants to eat an oily, spongy mess??  Actually, the truth of the matter is I don't really care for fried foods period.  One time I tried making general chicken at home, and by the time I was done frying up all the little chicken pieces I was so grossed out I barely ate any of it.  Maybe it's just that I don't care for frying foods at home....I don't know, but I do know that I don't like fried eggplant!

When I finally decided to cook up some eggplant at home I made up my mind right away that I wasn't going to fry it.  I knew I could bake it and that it would turn out way more appetizing.  I am so glad that I attempted to bake it because it really is soooo much better this way!  I do believe I have become an eggplant snob....I pretty much only eat it when I make it.  If the only time you've eaten eggplant is when you've gone out to eat, I am pleading with you to give it another chance and try making it at home.  Once you do I bet you will love it!  Maybe not as much as I do, but you get the point .

Baked Breaded Eggplant 

1 very large eggplant, or 2 smaller ones 
1 large egg
2-3 cups (start with 2 and add more if needed) of seasoned breadcrumbs
Olive oil
Garlic Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375. Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil and coat each pan with olive oil (it’s easier if you spread it around with your fingers).  Peel and slice eggplant about a ¼ inch thick.  In a small bowl whisk together the egg with about a tablespoon or two of water.  Pour 2 cups of seasoned bread crumbs on a plate and set aside.  

Dip each piece of eggplant in the egg mixture and then dredge in the bread crumbs and set onto the baking sheets.  Once you’ve finished this process you will need to drizzle a little olive oil on top of each piece of eggplant.  Place in oven and cook for about a ½ hour, turning each slice of eggplant after 15 minutes.  When it's done it should be a nice golden brown, so increase your cooking time if need be. When it comes out of the oven I sprinkle a little garlic salt over all of them.  Serve hot or cold, either way it's yummy!  Serves 4.

July 9, 2012

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I think I mentioned before that I have been on a quest for quite some time to try and replicate the oatmeal raisin cookies that a local sandwich shop makes.  Besides the fact that they taste fabulous, the texture of their cookies is just perfect.  Dense and chewy, just the way I like it.  It has taken me years to come up with this recipe, but I think I've finally achieved it....or at least I've come pretty darn close!

The only way to tell for sure would be to do a side by side taste test, which I have not done yet.  I will have to stop by there and buy one of their cookies so I can be sure that I've cloned their recipe.  Either way, I am very proud of myself for getting this far!  These cookies are so good.  I haven't been able to stop myself from eating them and oatmeal raisin cookies aren't even my favorite cookie!  If you are looking for an oatmeal raisin cookie recipe that is dense and chewy, with a little spice, this recipe is for you!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 cup butter flavored shortening

1 1/2 cups brown sugar 
2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 cups quick cooking oats
2 tsp corn starch
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 and spray two cookie sheets with cooking spray, and set aside.  In a large bowl cream together the brown sugar and shortening.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until mixture becomes light in color. 

In a separate bowl, sift together all of the dry/remaining ingredients.  Stir flour mixture into butter mixture until combined.  Place oatmeal in bowl of food processor and pulse about 4-6 times - you want the oatmeal to be somewhat ground, but not completely.  

Add the raisins and oatmeal, and fold them in until combined.  Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto the cookie sheets.  Bake about 12 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let them set on the cookie sheets for about 5 minutes before removing and placing on wire racks to cool completely. 

July 7, 2012

Pineapple Coffee Cake

Since my son seems to like coffee cake so much, I decided to give this recipe for Pineapple Coffee Cake that I came across months ago a try.  I thought it sounded interesting, but unfortunately my son did not seem too excited about it.  Lucky for me, even if he doesn't love something I've made, he'll eat it anyway.  He's a good boy ;)

Oddly, I was the one who couldn't stay out of this cake!  I really liked it.  I've never had anything quite like it.  It's a very dense cake, and I'm thinking it's not really like coffee cake at all.  To me it seemed more like a dessert cake, but no matter what you call it, I had no problem eating it!  My husband liked it too, but my son couldn't get passed the fact that it's not like other coffee cakes I make and said he'd be fine if I didn't ever make it again.....the stinker!  He did it eat it though, just like I knew he would. This recipe may not have been a "slam dunk" in my house, but I think I will hold on to this recipe anyway.  I'm sure there will come a day when I'll want to make it again.

Pineapple Coffee Cake (sprinkledwithflour.com)
4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 cups vanilla yogurt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups crushed pineapple, drained & reserve the juice

3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2. cup butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Pineapple Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
reserved pineapple juice

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.  In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl beat the eggs, yogurt, vanilla and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until blended, then fold in the pineapple.  Pour batter into your baking dish and add with the topping (below).

Topping: Combine flour, sugar and butter. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly, then mix in the chopped nuts.

Bake cake for 40-45 minutes, or until middle is set and cake is lightly browned. Allow cake to cool for 10 while you make the glaze (see below).

Glaze: Stir the powdered sugar and enough of the pineapple juice to reach your desired consistency. Drizzle over the top of the entire cake.

July 5, 2012

Chicken with Pesto

I'm not sure why, but chicken and pesto are just a match made in heaven.  They just go together.  So it's no surprise that this is one of my favorite dishes.  As I stated in my post for homemade pesto, pesto itself is tricky in that you either like it or you don't.  Everyone in my house says they like this dish, and they do not love pesto like I do. 

My thought is, if you can get non-pesto lovers to eat this dish, then it is a winner.  What's not to love about this dish anyway - it's chicken smothered in pesto and cheese - YUM!  I could eat this everyday and not get sick of it.  

Chicken with Pesto

4 chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
3/4 - 1 cup pesto (I use my homemade basil pesto. Click here for the recipe)
Fresh or sliced mozzarella 
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.  In the bottom of the baking dish spread a little less than 1/2 of the pesto all around.  Lay the chicken breasts on top of the pesto, then generously spoon the remaining pesto on top of each piece of chicken.  

Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from and top the chicken with the mozzarella cheese (if you are using fresh mozzarella, just break it up and place it over the top of each chicken breast).  Place back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

July 3, 2012

Basil Pesto

One of the things I love about summer is the harvesting of my garden.  I plant basil every year, lots of it, and one of my favorite things to use it in is pesto.  Oh how I love pesto.  I realize not everyone likes it - it's one of those things where if you like it, then you LOVE it, but if you don't care for it you probably never will.  I look forward to making my own pesto every summer, in fact, I make enough of it so it will last until the next summer! 

Both my son and husband are on the fence when it comes to pesto.  My husband says he likes it, but yet he doesn't seem to ever want me to cook with it.....he claims it gives him heartburn.  Uh, I guess I'll let that one slide.  My son says it's "OK I guess" which pretty much means he'll eat it if he has to.  There is one way I use it though that they both really like....but I'll blog about that another day.

So you might be scratching your head wondering how I "store" all that pesto.  I freeze it of course!  All you do is scoop it into an ice cube try, drizzle a little olive oil over each cube and place the try in the freezer for a couple of hours until it's frozen.  Super easy right?  Once it's frozen you pop each cube out with a little knife and place them into a freezer bag and then back into the freezer it goes....all ready for you to use when ever you need it!  To defrost you can take out what you need and place it in a bowl and let it set on the counter until it thaws, or you can pop it in the microwave for 15-25 seconds (how long depends on the power of your microwave, but it doesn't take long).

Basil Pesto

½ cup pine nuts
8 cloves of garlic
4-5 cups basil, packed
1 tsp salt
½ pepper
1 ¼ cups good olive oil
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Add nuts and garlic to bowl of food processor, and process about 30 seconds.  Add basil, salt & pepper.  With processor running, slowly add the olive oil until finely pureed. Add Parmesan cheese and puree another minute.

July 1, 2012

Pizza on the Grill

Are you a thin or thick crust person when it comes to pizza?  Everyone in my house loves a thin crispy crust pizza, so it came as no surprise to me that pizza on the grill was BY FAR the best homemade pizza I've ever had.  Actually, it's the best pizza I've ever had, period. 

Don't let the idea of cooking pizza on the grill scare you.  I promise it is easy, and well worth the effort.  I don't have a "recipe" for this.  I'm just going to explain how to do it.  First, you either want to make your own pizza dough or you can buy it - most grocery stores sell pizza dough, and some pizza places will also sell you their dough.  Figure out what you want to have for toppings, and if there is any pre-cooking involved you want to do that before you are ready to start up the grill.  For example, my husband and son like sausage on their pizza and I like carmalized onions on mine, and both these items require cooking before going on your pizza.  Once, your toppings are all set, then you can go ahead a spread out your dough.  For us, we like to make individual pizzas, so I cut the dough up and give everyone their piece and everyone spreads it out to their desired thinness.  Since I like really thin pizza, I find it's best to spread it so thin it seems like it will break because once it hits the heat on the grill it will rise and will end up being thicker than you expected. 

Once you've spread your dough out, spray both sides with cooking spray.  Feel free to brush it will olive oil instead, but I found after doing this several times both ways, that the crust will be crispier if you just spray it with cooking spray.  Make sure your grill is nice and hot, then gently lay the pizza dough directly onto the grill.  Cook for about 5 minutes on one side, then flip it and cook the other side for about 4 minutes.  (The dough pictured here clearly has too much olive oil on it....I might have gotten a little carried away, that's why I switched to the cooking spray instead).

Remove the dough from the grill and add your sauce, cheese and toppings.  When your pizzas are ready, put them back on the grill for another 10-12 minutes on medium low heat.  

You want to cook it until the cheese is melted the way you like it.  Personally, I don't like burned/dark brown cheese, so once the cheese is melted and it's a nice golden brown we take it off.  Here's mine after it's cooked (yeah, my pizza is the biggest, and yes I ate every single bite of it all by myself).

Mmmmm, doesn't that look yummy???  This is one of my favorite pizzas - I mixed pesto with regular pizza sauce, and it's topped with mushrooms and carmalized onions.  Oh how I LOVE carmalized onions on pizza....my mouth is watering just looking at this picture!  Anyway, now you see how easy this is, so go try it!